MetaWatch, the smartwatch company born from ex-Fossil engineers, is launching a new brand of devices called Meta. Meta watches differ from the company's earlier efforts in that they have as much of a focus on design and aesthetics as they do on functionality.
One of the biggest criticisms leveraged against smartwatches is that they are just ugly and not something that most people care to wear on their wrists. MetaWatch's earlier models, the Strata and Frame, were more about utility than aesthetics, and aren't designs that appeal to fashion-conscious consumers (though the Frame is arguably still one of the better-looking smartwatches on the market). The Pebble has long been criticized for being too plasticky and cheap feeling, and while traditional watchmakers such as Citizen have entered the smartwatch market, they have yet to make much of a dent. For the most part, smartwatches are devices built by nerds for nerds, but not something the average watch buyer wants.
The Meta is MetaWatch's direct response to this: designed by Frank Nuovo, formerly of Nokia and Vertu, the line features premium metals, leather wristbands, and quality craftsmanship and is said to look as good when paired with a suit as it does with jeans and a T-shirt. The strap pivot points of the new watches were given careful attention — Nuovo says that the new watches flow around your wrist better and are more comfortable to wear than those of other watch designs. The line will come in a variety of colors and designs. One of the biggest changes made for the Meta line is a new display. MetaWatch has ditched the low-contrast and hard-to-read display used on its earlier models for a higher-resolution e-paper screen similar to what is used on the Pebble. That should make the new watches easier to read in bright environments such as the outdoors.
Of course, the other half of smartwatches is the software that runs on them, and it's not clear what MetaWatch has done to its software experience for the new Meta brand. The company says it's focused on providing glanceable information that lets users keep their focus on their environment and other people instead of their phones. Needless to say, we wouldn't expect the new Meta brand to incorporate voice control, cameras, or other extraneous features any time soon.
MetaWatch says the new watches will be available this spring at Best Buy and other retailers, but it has not announced pricing for them yet. Chances are, the Meta watches won't be the only stylish smartwatches on the market this spring, but we'll have to see if they're the ones that convert the naysayers.
Chris Ziegler contributed to this report.